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Chitosan Performance in the Human Body

Tricol’s chitosan is derived from shrimp shells. Yes! We learned all about this metamorphosis in Article 1 in this series – Chitosan Unleashed!  As you can imagine, there are many complex propriety steps that happen between the extraction of chitosan from shrimp, and the point of using a finished product to control bleeding wounds in a caregiver’s hands.   Our various products are stopping bleeding all around the world!  You can find them in hospitals, outpatient settings, long-term care facilities, schools, places of work, and homes.  They are trusted by first- responders in our communities and on the battlefields we serve.  Many users want to understand the technology behind our life-saving products.  This stuff works, but how?

If we get into the science just a little, Chitosan is positively charged.  When it comes in contact with blood, it attracts negatively charged red blood cells and platelets that are drawn to the positive charge, creating a very tight seal.  Think of a magnet.  This ionic interaction produces an extremely strong, mucoadhesive (sticky) seal. This supportive seal at the wound surface works quickly to stop bleeding.  Chitosan technology has been proven to work even on individuals suffering from abnormal blood clotting mechanisms, or those on blood thinners.  Our chitosan technology works independently of the body’s clotting system (clotting cascade).  Check back later for an article on bleeding and the clotting cascade!


There are many ways in which the human body bleeds.  It could be the result of a traumatic injury, or, as a by-product of a medical procedure or intervention.  Whichever way, chitosan needs to be delivered to the source of bleeding via an appropriate support matrix.  In other words, for different types of bleeding, Tricol chitosan products are delivered in different forms.  Although the forms are different, they have in common the need to be strong, interconnected, and porous which allows them to adhere to blood-wetted surfaces and to resist high pressures from the vascular system.

Tricol products are broadly categorized into two general “family” types that we refer to as the “Bandage Family” and the “Gauze Family”.  Although they are both derived from the same shrimp shells off the pristine coast of Iceland, they treat different types of wounds.

Our Bandage family is essentially freeze-dried chitosan.  It is very soft in its finished form.  This is not the type of bandage you would find on the shelf of your local pharmacy or grocery store.  It is the kind of bandage you would find in the kits of the US Army’s Special Forces Green Beret unit or in the hands of the paramedic that arrives on the scene.  In fact, your cardiologist, trauma surgeon, or local dentist may be using this same battlefield-tested product on you.  It is extremely safe and effective in controlling severe bleeding in minutes.  Great for cuts and lacerations.  This product family used to be available only to professionals but is now available to the civilian population as well.

Our Gauze family of products are flexible, chitosan-coated gauze dressings that come in a variety of different dimensions and lengths.   Whereas our bandage family of products is used to quickly control surface level cuts and/or lacerations, our gauze family of products is typically used for deep penetrating wounds, or when the source of the bleeding is below the surface and not visible.  These dressing are then “stuffed” into the wound to come in contact with the source of bleeding.  These gauze dressings are now also available to the civilian population just like our bandage family.

Tricol specific products in both the bandage and gauze families are now being produced and provided for consumer and home use as well.

Check back here soon for the next article in our Chitosan Unleashed series where we will explore the anti-microbial properties of Chitosan-based bleeding products.



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Chitosan Unleashed!

Chitosan is the active agent in Tricol Biomedical’s HemCon and OneStop hemostasis products and in order to understand how it works, you should first know about chitin. Chitin is the second most abundant naturally occurring biopolymer, after cellulose. In the natural world, chitin functions as scaffold material that gives structure and strength to insect exoskeletons and crustacean shells, and it is also found in mushrooms. It is often found in association with the mineral calcium carbonate. Our chitin is sourced from shrimp shells of the species Pandalus Borealis. The species naming being a reference to the Aurora Borealis found in the sky above the pristine waters of the North Atlantic Ocean. The shells that are received for processing at Primex  in the very north of Iceland are caught under carefully regulated quota systems that leave a sustainable balance to the marine environment. These quotas are based on scientific criteria for sustainable utilization of natural resources and the dedicated work of the Marine Research Institute.

Once the chitin is extracted from the shells, it undergoes a process called de-acetylation that molecularly transforms the chitin to chitosan. So now that we know where Chitosan comes from, what exactly is it? Chitosan is a natural biopolymer that possesses a positive molecular charge and is the hemostatic component in HemCon bandages and coated gauzes. This positive molecular charge is the basis of chitosan’s medical uses. For bandage and gauze products like ours, the positive charge attracts negatively-charged blood cells like a magnet, rapidly creating a tight seal over an injury.

Often a first reaction to the use of Chitosan in medical devices are concerns with shellfish allergies. Most allergic reactions to shellfish are caused by the protein part of the shellfish, not by the shells. Any residual proteins are eliminated during the conversion of chitin to chitosan. There have been no reported cases of an allergic reaction to our chitosan products in the 20 years we have made them. Keep an eye out for more detailed information to come on the use of chitosan by people with shellfish allergies!

Due to chitosan’s many attractive properties such as its natural origin, abundance, and positive charge reactivity, it has a multitude of real-world applications. You can find chitosan used in the medical field, agriculture, food processing, cosmetics, and water treatment. Chitosan is a prime example of how we can use technology to benefit from naturally occurring materials. And as a bonus, HemCon chitosan is made as a byproduct of the shrimp fishing industry, so our material sourcing helps prevent waste and minimizes our environmental footprint.

Now to answer the question on everyone’s mind: how do you pronounce chitosan? Is it ‘cheeto-san’ or maybe ‘chyto-san’? When you find yourself in a conversation about all the benefits of chitosan, you can confidently pronounce chitosan as ‘kai-tuh-san’.